‘Oh, I thought you’d be taller,’ he said.
I watched my date’s eyes skate over my hair, into the blank space where my head would have been if I’d had a few more inches to my height.
As he lowered his gaze to meet mine, I felt his hopes nosedive and I knew that no matter how well the following few hours panned out, I wouldn’t be seeing him again.
It was the first of many similar experiences that would make me realise I have a shortcoming when it comes to being a prospective partner: I am not tall enough.
Height seems like such a juvenile thing to care about as we crash through the dating scene as adolescents, but apparently it’s still just as important in adulthood.
I was told growing up that I wouldn’t be short forever, that my growth spurt would come. Through being picked last in PE, to never being picked for anything romantically, I told myself that I’d grow into myself one day. Only, the spurt never did come. I stopped growing and stayed a mediocre 5’8”.
The average UK male is apparently 5’9” – but that extra inch may as well be a full yard. Growing up, I was always vastly under-average for my age height-wise, so being referred to with some derivation of ‘small’ or ‘little’ was so common it almost didn’t even register.
Now, all of my romantic mishaps have revolved around the fact I am short. I see the dating game like riding a rollercoaster – everyone under a certain height is banned and it doesn’t matter if you’re just under the cut off or you’re barely on the chart.
After three successful dates, one man once told me that our pictures didn’t look good on Instagram because of the height difference – and I never heard from him again.
Another had to stand, alone, at the back of a cabaret show while I elbowed my way forward just to see the stage. I returned at the end to find he had already found someone else – someone taller – to speak with while I’d been clapping away at the front.
And if I had £1 for every time I’d been ghosted after answering the inevitable ‘how tall r u’ question on dating apps then I’d have enough money for the surgery that lengthens your shins.
It’s also difficult to kiss if you’re having to stand on tiptoes and he’s having to crane his neck downwards – as one man told me before leaving me for a more height-sensible option. Another grew angry and called me a catfish when we met, suggesting that I deliberately chose photos on my profile that depicted me as taller than I was.
I don’t, but nor do I make a point of choosing ones that show it. Perhaps subconsciously I focus on elements I can control, opting for pictures where gym progress is visible or where my clothes fit well.
If I attract them with those features, it might soften the blow when they find out my height – and one of the worst parts of being short is that it can’t be hidden. You can develop a posture so you appear taller when sitting down, you can wear vertical stripes and platform shoes, but eventually your date is going to discover how small you are.
Tallness represents masculinity. Shorter men are often seen as less macho, less rugged, and less sexy. We can be cute, but never sexy.
When it comes to heterosexual dating, the well-trodden narrative is that women want men who are tall, dark and handsome, with an emphasis on ‘tall’. Height prejudice is even worse in the LGBTQ+ community, especially among gay men. As being short rarely equates to being ‘a man’, those who are plagued by internalised homophobia are programmed to reject short men.
Even gay men who are out and proud might feel society would judge them less harshly by choosing the ‘right kind’ of gay – a straight-acting, tall one. Why – for a hook-up – would height be important, were it not for the symbolism attached to it?
In this era of body positivity I’ve heard height denounced as being a non-issue but in my experience, it’s just not the case. Most Grindr users fill in their height (and weight) on their profiles and expect you to as well. Omit it, and they’ll ask why.
Height shouldn’t matter in the search for love. Romance may begin with a spark of attraction, but it is maintained by a deeper connection and physical attributes will fall by the wayside when you’re up at 3am changing nappies together. You can’t create a life with someone based on their measurements.
Of course, there may be potential dates out there who don’t mind that I’m short, or who are even actively seeking someone shorter. But finding this elusive person adds additional criteria to an already restricted dating pool and to date.
In an age of swiping left and right, so much choice makes us quicker to set self-imposed parameters and I have not found anyone with whom our height discrepancy didn’t feel like an issue.
Even if I were to find someone who doesn’t care, I worry that I will subconsciously fixate on my shortness, I’ll push it and worry at it until it creates a tangible problem. A lifetime of feeling inadequate has no doubt exacerbated how I perceive my own stature. Whether or not it causes physical problems, it will always manifest as an unconscious one.
I confess: I’m as guilty as others when it comes to discriminating against people for a physical attribute. I personally don’t really like facial or body hair. Seemingly insignificant things, like untamed eyebrows or long fingernails, have put me off in the past. But in my quest for love in future, I’m going to try to be less image-obsessed and to consider those who my shallower self might have previously discounted.
My ideal partner is someone funny, smart, confident, around whom I could never imagine feeling insecure. Tall, dark, and handsome would be nice, but I wouldn’t plan a second date based on any of those features alone. Height has felt like a prominent characteristic for me but I don’t see it as significant in others. I’d happily date someone shorter than the nation’s average – and shorter than me.
Having a shortcoming (pun intended) has helped me to realise how insignificant physical appearance is and how vain we have become, and the LGBT+ community needs to be more embracing and understanding of our differences – especially when they could be blocking potentially perfect partners
Last week in Love, Or Something Like It: The dating world is obsessed with labels but I don’t fit any of them
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Love, Or Something Like It is a regular series for Metro.co.uk, covering everything from mating and dating to lust and loss, to find out what love is and how to find it in the present day. If you have a love story to share, email [email protected]
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